7 Expert Tips for Talking with Teens
Who are you going to be with? Where are you going? When will you be home? The who, what, where, when, and whys we asked were the hallmarks of caring, active, involved parents. But the strategy didn’t work as well as hoped.
We need to build the kind of relationship where being honest makes sense. The way we listen, tells teens they are free to talk. Controlling our reactions, tells them they can talk without fear of being judged.The Center for Parent and Teen Communication based within the Division of Adolescent Medicine at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia offers the following tips.
7 Essential Communication Strategies
1) Control Reactions
The first step in effectively monitoring teens is to learn to monitor our reactions. When parents serve as sounding boards — listening deeply and offering guidance when asked — young people learn to bounce ideas off of us. They allow us to help them consider how things might play out. And to support them to make decisions. On the other hand, when we react strongly, they stop telling us things they think will make us uncomfortable or angry.
2) Be a Good Listener
Adolescents crave adult attention (even though they sometimes push us away). Good listening is respectful. It is about giving someone full attention. Listening, and then reflecting on what you heard can help teens become aware of their own wisdom. Listening respectfully and without judgment does not mean you necessarily agree with what is being said. It is about creating a zone of safety — free from interruption, interrogation, or reaction. Parents who listen know what is going on in their teens’ lives and can protect them when necessary.
3) React Little
Just as active listening enables you to monitor your teens, reacting to what they say shuts down communication. When we quickly judge, share our concerns, or make accusations, our teens stop talking. When we try to solve their problems, they stop sharing. Non-reaction is the name of the game. Remain calm and aim to listen first.
4) Turn Off the Parent Alarm
The parent alarm screams “My child is in trouble!” It makes parents jump to the rescue before the sentence is completed. Too often we try to rescue our teens by controlling them.
5) Don’t Catastrophize
When teens talk about things that concern us, our natural instinct is to go on full alert. Everything becomes a potential catastrophe that must be solved. “Mom, Dad, I might get a C- in history this quarter” is met with “No son of mine is going to fail!” or “You’ll never get into college!” Unfortunately, these parents won’t hear about grades because their teens won’t want to deal with the drama.
6) Avoid Over-Empathizing
Parents prevent further sharing when they over-empathize and take on their children’s pain as their own. “Mom, I had a huge fight with Teresa. I hate her!” “I don’t blame you! I never liked her. She didn’t treat you well! I can’t stand her mother either.” Here’s the problem. The next day, Teresa is back to being her best friend. But this parent may never know because she took sides. His or her daughter may be too embarrassed to share the fact that her viewpoint and friendship has changed once again.
7) Offer Constructive Feedback
Even subtle messages can have a big impact. Adolescents have incredibly strong sensors that pick up on criticism easily. Their fear of disappointing us, or of being judged by us, may limit further communication. In routine conversations, we can unintentionally minimize, belittle, or shame.
When our feedback is about helping them shape their own ideas, they will gain resilience and share more often.
Source: Center for Parent and Teen Communication | 7 Expert Tips for Talking with Teens, https://parentandteen.com/keep-teens-talking-learn-to-listen | Copyright 2021 CPTC
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